Dancers and participants raked in tens of thousands of dollars at a miniature Dance Marathon that was held Friday night at Forsyth Central High School.
The event, which benefitted Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, or CHOA, was hosted by Otwell Middle School, Central and Lambert High School in partnership with Kennesaw State University from 6-10 p.m.
Working with KSU, the high schools’ HOSA chapters, along with Otwell’s HOSA chapter and its Junior Beta Club, had aimed to raise about $20,000, said Steve Miller, Otwell’s principal.
They far exceeded that amount, bringing in $33,650 for CHOA.
“Before our mini Dance Marathon, the largest mini marathon ever held in state was Brookwood [High School,] which raised $17,000,” Miller said. “Not only was it the first time ever in the state of Georgia that a middle school was considered host school, but we almost doubled the largest amount ever raised.”
Originally, the dance was supposed to be held in Otwell’s cafeteria, but “when we realized how big it was getting, I called over to Mitch Young [Central’s principal] and he agreed to have Central host it,” Miller said.
Two CHOA mascots, Will and Hope, attended the event.
Central graduate Ryann Miller is the president of KSU Miracle, the university’s Dance Marathon organization dedicated to raising money for CHOA through annual dances.
KSU’s full-length Dance Marathon is held for 12 hours, and last year’s event raised $72,000.
The money raised at Friday’s mini marathon will go towards the overall fundraising of this year’s full-length marathon, which is scheduled for March 25-26 at KSU.
“It was just an unbelievable night,” Miller said. “We spent four hours dancing and playing games and it was such a great event and so important for the middle and high [school] students to see beyond themselves.
“A lot of times, we are so wrapped up in ‘me, me, me,’ but every single dollar went to supporting CHOA and there’s not a single person who hasn’t been touched in some way or form by [childhood illness].”
At the mini marathon, numerous people — Forsyth County teachers, students, parents and principals — shared their stories of how CHOA has helped their families.
“Parents, students [and] my teachers were in tears,” Miller said.
Throughout the night, KSU Miracle’s executive board paused the dance for 20 or 30 seconds at a time to teach part of a line dance.
At the end of the night, around 9:45 p.m., those who were left — about 125, Miller said — put all the pieces together and everyone performed a line dance together.
That, he said, along with the reveal at the end of the night, was his favorite part.
“Towards the end of the night, we shut off all donor drives and KSU’s [executive council] took all the cash counted it up out back,” Miller said. “We had 60 pizzas that were donated by Papa John’s — a sponsor — and would sell them for $2, and you could add a [soda] or a water for $1. BJ’s donated those.”
Once the money was counted, KSU’s executive team had Otwell, Central and Lambert students come on stage with poster boards that they turned around, one by one, to reveal the amount raised.
“When you saw the 33,000, the place erupted,” Miller said. “You would think they had 500 people there.”
Miller said his students have already approached him about hosting the event next year.
“They are planning to beat the state record next year, too,” Miller said. “This was great, but there are so many things we could do better; we have room for improvement.”